Met to launch Expanded Operatic Universe

Opera companies tend to rely on a small canon of classic works to fill seats. But the problem, according to Met Opera general director Peter Gelb, is that too few operas lead audiences to other operas. Today he announced that he has found a solution. Taking a cue from superhero movies, Gelb intends to build next season into an “expanded operatic universe,” in which audiences will be able to follow characters from one production to the next. “This will let us see some familiar works in wholly new, yet entirely picturesque and literally represented, ways!”

Next season’s “cycle” will begin in Switzerland. After perky lass Marie enjoys an upbringing with some soldiers, her beloved Tonio dies in action and she reunites with her long-lost father, Miller, who tells her that her real name is Luisa. She then falls in love with another tenor, introduced as Carlo but really named Rodolfo, only to become embroiled in a love triangle which leads to her death.

In a spin-off prequel, we learn that Rodolfo’s pseudonym of “Carlo” actually was his real name: he had moved to Tyrol after being sucked into a tomb by his grandfather, the former Holy Roman Emperor. In a sequel, we discover his later history as “Rodolfo.” Heartbroken at the loss of Luisa, he begins to write poetry and moves to Paris, where he falls in love with a girl named Mimì. After many years and a trip downward vocally, Rodolfo returns to Switzerland, where he encounters a girl named Amina who reminds him of Luisa.

Meanwhile, Rodolfo’s bride, Federica, is left alone, her reputation destroyed. She decides that she will follow Luisa’s example and make her home with a group of soldiers, getting a snare drum, calling herself a gypsy, and using the rataplan skills she learned from Luisa. Then things begin to get really complicated. At one point she thinks she saw Luisa hiding out in a cave, but she isn’t 100% sure. Many years pass and the former Federica eventually wanders through Spain, where she is eventually discovered casting a spell over a very important baby’s cradle and is burned to death as a witch.

The Switzerland portions will be directed by Bartlett Sher, Michael Mayer will handle the Parisian portions (which are rumored to be the basis of next year’s courtesan-focused adventures), and David McVicar will run the Preziosilla arc. The most Switzerland-associated maestro at the Met, Fabio Luisi, will not be involved.

The cycle’s intricacy will doubtlessly be appreciated by notoriously detail-oriented opera fans. There is already a comment thread on Parterre devoted to determining Federica’s Fach and another attempting to determine Marie’s exact age and debating what her boots should look like. Fans will be able to discuss these issues in more detail at the upcoming Metcon.

This reporter asked if the cycle was ever going to make it to Germany and/or to mythological realms but it seems that those properties are owned by another opera house.

Previously:

Norman Lebrecht to host Fox News show

Met announces new initiatives

Startup promises to disrupt opera

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